Grenfell Inquiry: ‘A merry-go-round of buck-passing’
The companies involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, completed the year before the fire that killed 72 people, have ignored an invitation not to indulge in “a merry-go-round of buck-passing”.
That’s according to counsel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Richard Millett QC, who opened the second phase of the investigation yesterday with a strongly worded statement criticising the likes of main contractor Rydon, subcontractor Harley Façades, architect Studio E, all three of which made their opening statements yesterday (see summary below).
Millett said: “With the sole exception of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), not a single core participant involved in the primary refurbishment of Grenfell Tower has felt able to make any unqualified admission against its own interests.
“One finds in these detailed and carefully crafted statements no trace of any acceptance of any responsibility for what happened at Grenfell Tower, not from the architects , the contract managers, the main contractors, the specialist cladding subcontractors, the fire safety engineers, or the tenant management organisation (TMO).
“Nor, with the exception of Celotex, who have made certain limited admissions which they assert were not causative, do we find any admission of any kind from those who made and sold the products used in the cladding.”
Millett contended that any member of the public reading the firms’ statements and taking them at face value “would be forced to conclude that everyone involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower did what they were supposed to do and nobody made any serious or causative mistakes.”
“Someone else’s fault”
He added: “In my opening address at Phase 1 of this Inquiry, on 4 June 2018, I invited the core participants not to indulge in a merry-go-round of buck-passing. Regrettably , that invitation has not been accepted.
“Save for RBKC, who have made clear and welcome admissions of numerous failings of its Building Control officers, and to a lesser extent Celotex, each core participant who played a material part in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower has laid out a detailed case for how it relied on the work of others, and how in no way was the work it did either substandard or non-compliant.
“In every case, what happened was, as each of them would have it, someone else’s fault.”
He also pointed out that the Inquiry is not a “dress rehearsal for civil claims or any criminal proceedings” and that chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick is forbidden from ruling on or making any determination of any person’s liability, whether civil or criminal but rather to find the facts and to make recommendations. “It is from the findings of fact , based on the evidence, that accountability follows,” he said.
And he concluded: “If lessons are to be learned from what went wrong at Grenfell Tower, and the necessary changes to the construction industry are to be made, it is important that all those who give evidence at Module 1, and indeed all witnesses who are called throughout Phase 2, provide a truthful and a candid account of what happened during the primary refurbishment.”